Jim Kokoris * St. Martin’s Press * December 8, 2015 * 320 Pages
John Nichols is tired. He’s newly divorced (after cheating on his wife), and though he and his ex share custody of their 19-year old autistic son, Ethan, John generally acts as primary caretaker. John tries very hard to be the best father to Ethan he can be (while also being a good father to his other two daughters), but, truthfully, his daily routine is grueling, exhausting. Ethan requires ALL of John’s attention, so John ends up not having much to give to himself or anyone else.
So he comes up with a plan–a plan that will hopefully help Ethan live a better life, while simultaneously giving the rest of the family (especially John) a break. The problem is, no one else in the family knows about it yet. While John knows he needs to fess up to his family, his oldest daughter’s wedding is taking up everyone else’s energy. So John decides to keep his news to himself…until he can’t anymore, and then shit hits the fan.
Even from the first few pages, I knew I was going to like this book. John is FUNNY. Oh my God, the conversations between the Bears is hilarious. Seriously, I would read a whole book of just those interactions. But John is more than that. He’s thoughtful and a little bit broken, a little bit lost. He wallows but also manages to pull himself out of it just before he becomes self-indulgent. He’s honest and transparent. And even though he’s screwed up a bunch, he’s also still trying, and I had to admire the guy for that.
The other characters in this book are also well-executed. John’s daughter, Mindy, steals the show, in my opinion. She’s smart, witty, and the perfect amount of offensive. I also appreciate how truthful the portrayal of Ethan is. My husband’s cousin is severely autistic, and we’ve seen how hard it is on a family to take care of an autistic child, especially as they become adults. It’s not an easy situation to be in, and Kokoris’ portrayal of this struggle is right on.
Ultimately, It’s. Nice. Outisde. is an engaging, funny, thoughtful, yet strangely lighthearted, peek at a family struggling through major life transitions. The subject matter is unique, and even though it could have leaned dark and depressing, Kokoris’ playful touch makes the book easy to digest. Overall, a very satisfying read.